This is from a book I wrote years ago when I was intrigued by mountain climbing and thought those muscular souls who accomplished it were cool. I also knew- alas! that I’d never be able to get that lean. No one has ever read this book but me; it’s called ‘The Treasure of Kai-Belan‘.
‘A hurried breakfast and he’d begun, allowing the strenuousness of the climb to fully warm him. And it had been difficult.
Smooth but sharp walls, piles of unstable boulders, slick and clear cycles of ice decorating the edges of the undulating rock corners. He’d found it necessary to go out of his way, many times, in order to find a way back to the foot of this elusive ridge.
Now he stared up and craned his shoulders wearily. It was going to be dangerous, and there was no way around it. He narrowed his eyes against the bright white sun. There was a crack to work with, but it ended only a fourth of the way up. He sighed. His fingers had bloody edges along the nails, but he barely thought of that. He tightened the pack against his body and began.
Once he reached the top of the crack he looked up hopefully, and he saw a few handholds, but they were irregular and difficult to count on. His heart began hammering in his chest. There were times that he’d known fear in climbing, but he’d always been able to overcome that, knowing that he had the skill to meet the challenge before him. But now there was no such assurance. He bit his lip and forced his aching muscles to go on. He was already tired, strain softened only when he continued to move upwards. There was no rest to be had until he could put his feet back on the ground. He dug his toes in, demanding his fingers grasp onto the merest out-jutting of rock. His ropes hung over his shoulder, but there was nothing to tie them to, and no way to catch himself if he should fall. He tried to think of Roweny, and to remember his need to accomplish this task, but he was strongly tempted to admit this challenge was beyond him. As he drew further from safety his terror grew until dealing with it became a greater problem than attacking the rock itself.
He stopped for a moment at a place where one foot had a good hold and his left hand was clamped fully over a knob of stone and took a deep breath. This would never do. This rock was a puzzle, that was all, a job of work rewarding in and of itself if he was strong enough to finish it. He was almost halfway to his destination. He squared his shoulders and looked back up again, seeing where he could make his next handhold. He trained his mind to focus only on that, on accurately planning his next step. He climbed again.
A vague feeling of becoming the rock wall, of losing bits of himself there, seemed to be moving in and out of his burning limbs as he went on. He was being used up, relentlessly torn from his grip on life with each plunge upwards. His muscles were stretched wide open, his fingers leaving tiny bloody spots behind him on the rock. His breath was slanting hollowly through his chest, as if he were made of nothing but wind through a few bones and limp scraps of material. Constant motion kept him alive, pulling and pushing. When finally the top of the ridge drew near he grabbed on to an obliging horn and pulled himself into a crack. Standing up from a crouch he finally climbed two stair steps of a rocky road and stood trembling at the top.
Scooting back a ways he sat down abruptly and wrapped his arms around his legs. Adrenalin made him shiver, as well as a brittle wind that came obligingly to cool the sweat too fast from under his arms. Disbelief of what he’d just been through wanted to react inside him. That had been too hard. A few times there hadn’t really been a handhold at all, other than sheer strength of muscle and will being propelled upwards until he could fool the rock into thinking that he really was attached. He swallowed heavily and tried to move on into emotional triumph. Surely this had been his greatest accomplishment. But he was too tired and now cold to appreciate any awareness other than the fact that somehow, and soon, he had to find a way back down this monstrosity.’